Playing the Numbers Game

Katy Bourne

Lies, damn lies and statistics has been an oft-used phrase over the years. When considering the publications by Sussex’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Katy Bourne regarding the numbers of police officers to be recruited to the force, then I would suggest that the words are very appropriate!

In publicising the recruitment figures, what is never mentioned is the fact that the overall figure in terms of increased numbers of officers in the force is reduced considerably through those officers who resign and those who retire.

In March 2019, in order to assess the impact of so called “natural wastage”, under the Freedom of Information Act I requested the following from Sussex Police:

  • The number of police officers recruited by Sussex Police since April 1 2018
  • The number of police officers leaving Sussex Police since April 1 2018, breaking that down to include those retiring and those resigning

The answers I received were as follows:

  • There were 267 police officer joiners since April 1 2018
  • There were 133 retirees
  • There were 83 resignations

An overall gain of just 51

Now according to my mathematics this meant that there was an overall gain of just 51 police officers. That figure is significant for a number of reasons. The PCC has consistently told us when requesting further increases in council tax, that by 2022 we could anticipate an extra 250 police officers PLUS an additional 129 police officers by 2021 as part of the government’s additional funding to increase officer numbers nationally by 20,000. But if the overall increase is just 51, this would mean the targets would not be met.

In April of this year, I made a similar Freedom of Information Act request of Sussex Police.

  • The number of police officers recruited by Sussex Police from April 1 2019 to March 31 2020
  • The number of police officers retiring from Sussex Police from April 1 2019 to March 31 2020
  • The number of police officers resigning from Sussex Police from April 1 2019 to March 31 2020

In order to then assess progress regarding overall recruitment, I requested the same information for the three above areas i.e. recruitment, retirement and resignation for the two year period April 1 2018 to March 31 2020.

This is the information that I received:

  • 265 officers recruited since April 1 2019
  • 88 retired
  • 72 resigned

As regards the two year period April 1 2018 to March 31 2020 I was given the following:

  • 544 joined since April 1 2018
  • 200 retired
  • 124 resigned

A two year increase of 220?

Now my maths are not great, however even I can work out that by taking away the figures that I received for the period April 1 2019 to March 31 2020 from the overall figures for the two years between 2018 and 2020, we should end up with the figures provided to me for the period 2018 to 2019.

However, we clearly don’t!  The figures are in fact, 279 recruited, 112 retired and 52 resignations. You will recall that they should read for 2018 -2019 267, 133 and 83. Confused? I was, and therefore I wrote asking for the HR Department to clarify things. After waiting many weeks and having had to chase things up on three separate occasions, I received the following on June 16, 2020:

“The report was originally run on the 20th April 2020, but I see now that it contained some retirements that were future-dated, beyond 20th April 2020. I have rerun the leavers report, with the same end date of 20th April. I get the same figures for resignations which are:

124 since 01/04/18
72 since 01/04/19

Because the future dates are no longer included, the retirement figures are lower:

185 since 01/04/18
73 since 01/04/19”

To me, this means that the outcome is more favourable in terms of achieving the targets as previously advertised by the PCC. Hence my original comment regarding lies, damn lies and statistics!

The purpose of my message is therefore simply this. Do not believe what you are told by our PCC. Aspirations are fine in terms of increasing police numbers. However, she is a Conservative politician. That is the same government that ensured that Sussex Police numbers fell from over 3,200 in 2010 to just over 2,500 by 2018. A fall of 700.

Therefore, it will take many, many years the way that things are going just to get back to the numbers that Sussex Police had in 2010. In the meantime, council tax has risen manifold!

Image Credits: Katy Bourne .


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